Nearly 300 religious officials from the Caribbean and Guyana have urged the U.S. to no longer promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad.
The 289 ministers who are from the Bahamas, St. Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana made the request in a letter they sent to President Trump on Jan. 31.
“We write to you as concerned Christian ministers and churches from the Caribbean region (including the Bahamas) who hope and pray that the United States, under your leadership, will once again cast a light from ‘The City upon a Hill’ of which your American forefathers and President Ronald Reagan so frequently spoke,” reads the letter. “Sadly, during recent years, that City has too often cast shadows instead of light.”
“We refer specifically to the policies of the U.S. State Department and other government agencies involved in foreign policy that have undertaken to coerce our countries into accepting a mistaken version of marriage,” it continues.
The letter specifically notes the appointment of Randy Berry as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights in 2015 was central to “the promotion of same-sex marriage” in American foreign policy. It also questions then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2011 speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in which she said “gay rights are human rights.”
“We have our rights by virtue of being human beings and not by anything else — not our ethnicity, not our religion, not our race, not our tribe and certainly not our sexual orientation,” reads the letter.
The letter also points out to Trump that “several of your government agencies” are “using executive orders to foist transgender confusion through the bathroom issue on your public schools by threatening the loss of federal funds.”
“Please understand that this same kind of coercion is being used against our countries to force us to fall in line with the entire same-sex agenda,” it reads.
The Obama administration last year advised public schools that Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 requires them to allow trans students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Trump rescinded this guidance on Feb. 22.
Guyanese group receives grants through Global Equality Fund
The promotion of LGBT and intersex rights abroad was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during Obama’s second term. The promotion of marriage rights for same-sex couples internationally was never a publicly articulated part of this strategy.
The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, a Guyanese advocacy group known by the acronym SASOD, has received grants through the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership the State Department manages with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Officials at the U.S. Embassy in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown also meet with SASOD staffers and support their efforts.
Dennis and Judy Shepard met with LGBT rights advocates, parents and officials at the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago in 2014. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has also supported HIV/AIDS programs in the country.
Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. St. Maarten recognizes same-sex marriages that are performed in the Netherlands.
Ministers’ letter is ‘appalling’
Steven Anderson, who was deported from Botswana last September, traveled to Guyana earlier this year. The anti-LGBT pastor from Arizona who has said gays and lesbians should be killed and described the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla., as “disgusting homosexuals,” claims a hotel in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, cancelled his reservation earlier this month.
Activists in the region with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Wednesday criticized the pastors who wrote to Trump.
“It’s appalling that they are pandering to President Trump — a head of state who has demonstrated nothing but prejudice and intolerance towards entire communities, immigrants and Muslims especially,” said SASOD Managing Director Joel Simpson.
Erin Greene, an LGBT and intersex rights advocate in the Bahamas, agreed.
“The statement and petition is a desperate move by a once powerful structure in Caribbean societies,” she told the Blade. “The Christian church was once the center of Caribbean societies, and now, these pastors are grasping to retain power and relevance as they are being stripped of their influence in policy making and national development.”
“In fact, they would be fulfilling their Christian mandate by denouncing the exportation of anti-LGBTI hate speech to the region, and asking President Trump to focus on foreign policy initiatives that prevent the spread the of U.S.-based religious terrorism in the Caribbean, Latin America and the Global South,” added Greene.
Bahamas Transgender Intersex United President Alexus D’Marco echoed Greene’s criticism while defending Obama, Clinton and Berry’s appointment.
“It is inconceivable that these ‘Christian’ reverend gentlemen and gentle ladies could not find the love of Christ in the hearts,” D’Marco told the Blade.
A State Department spokesperson on Friday said “protecting universal human rights is at the core of U.S. foreign policy.”
“All people should be protected from discrimination and violence, and must be allowed to exercise their human rights, including their rights to the freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion or belief,” the spokesperson told the Blade.
The White House did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.
- Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association